Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Shane Black

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang opens with a little girl chain-sawed in half in a magic trick gone tragically wrong. It turns out she's just fooling, but not before the audience is genuinely shocked, only to have the rug pulled out from under them.

The noir detective comedy specialises in this type of "fooled ya" moment. Many of the jokes seem a bit stale at first, but they're built upon with one absurd twist after another until you can't help but laugh. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is so much fun because it comes dangerously close to reaching new definitions of bad, but ends up being deliciously good.

The movie flirts with doom from the very beginning. Some of the most ambitious trickery takes place in the first 20 minutes. The narrator stops in mid-sentence to correct himself, then laments about the bad job he's doing. The frame stalls and viewers are left in a painful, unfunny limbo. Those ten seconds will have you shaking your head and begging to die. It's awful. Smarmy, precocious - everything you hope an action comedy won't be.

But Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang immediately smartens up. The jokes get gradually funnier and by the 45-minute mark you'll be howling in the aisles. Director Shane Black shovels one plot twist and sick joke after another, and like a bad Woody Allen movie, you forgive the 40-percent of groaners because of the occasional brilliant barb.

It helps that Robert Downey Jr. gives the comic performance of his career as a petty thief thrust into a Hollywood murder scandal. Black, who wrote the Lethal Weapon movies, should thank his lucky stars he had the recovering addict turned crooner to pilot this tricky vehicle. And Val Kilmer gives maybe his best performance in the last ten years as an understated but nasty gay Detective. (Warner)